Dulwich Picture Gallery II


British School DPG512

British (or Flemish) School
DPG512 – Jester

17th century; paper lined onto canvas, 48.6 x 34.9 cm

In Dulwich College by 1890.

Sparkes & Carver 1890 p. 41, no. 94;1 Richter & Sparkes 1892, p. 141, no. 94; Richter & Sparkes 1905, p. 143, no. 94; Cook 1914, p. 277, no. 512 (A Laughing Head; Artist Unknown); Cook 1926, p. 257; Cat. 1953, p. 48; Murray 1980a, p. 303 (A Jester; Unknown); Beresford 1998, p. 310; Jonker & Bergvelt 2016, p. 321 (Flemish or British); RKD, no. 281773: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/281773 (Feb. 24, 2017)

The appearance and condition are poor. The lining is old. The paint is very dark, with heavy restoration and discoloured and dark varnish. Previous recorded treatment: 1953, stretcher lightly paraffined (presumably to treat woodworm).

1) Philips Galle, Head of a Jester, c. 1560, engraving, 370 x 293 mm. Teylers Museum, Haarlem [1].2
2) Jan (Sanders) van Hemessen, Head of a Man in a Fool’s Cap, in Profile to the Right, black chalk with some heightening on brownish paper, 321 x 228 mm. Fondation Custodia, Paris, 2201 [2].3
3a) Pieter Huys, Woman enraged, c. 1558, panel, 64.8 x 50 cm. Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Mass [3].4
3b) free copy after Pieter Huys, A Bagpipe Player and a Woman holding a Pewter Jug, after 1571, panel, 55 x 79 cm. Present whereabouts unknown (Christie’s, New York, 27 Oct. 2010, lot 329; Detroit Institute of Arts) [4].5
4) Circle of Jan (Sanders) van Hemessen, Old Woman drinking, National Gallery, Dublin.6
5) [No attribution], Jester who looks between his Fingers, engraving, 333 x 220 mm. Print Room, Leiden University, Leiden [5].7

The crudeness of DPG512 makes it difficult to tell whether this is a laughing, crying or angry jester with his fool’s cap, although an angry one seems more probable (cf. Related works, no. 3a) [3]. Jesters were popularly used in Netherlandish art of the 16th and 17th centuries to satirize the behaviour of the lower classes:8 to express simple emotions through laughing and crying was considered stupid, or at least uneducated.9 Among other images of jesters, DPG512 could be compared to a Jester in a print by Philips Galle (1537–1612; Related works, no. 1) [1], where a jester bites his lip, regretting his useless life, and Jan (Sanders) van Hemessen (c. 1500–1556/7) drew a malevolent, aggressive jester (Related works, no. 2) [2] on the same scale as DPG512 and the print by Galle. Depictions of enraged old women with wide open mouths, by Pieter Huys (c. 1520–c. 1584) and from the circle of Jan van Hemessen, are similar displays of emotion on a large scale (Related works, nos 3a, 3b, 4) [3-4]. DPG512 might be an independent work of art, or one of a pair illustrating the emotions of joy and anger: Woman enraged by Huys (Related works, no. 3a) [3] was interpreted both as symbolizing Anger and as Avarice.10 It might also be a model for a print. Although all related works are Netherlandish, its place of origin could very well be England.

It has been suggested that DPG512 is a portrait of William Kempe or Kemp (d. 1603), one of the actors in Shakespeare’s early plays. There must have been an intensive correspondence in the 1930s between Miss E. M. Robinson at the Dulwich Gallery and Frederick Hitchin-Kemp, but her letters are not preserved.11 But although both Alleyn and Cartwright were closely involved with the theatre, there is nothing that could link DPG512 to this actor.

There are no technical clues to the provenance of this painting. It may have come from Alleyn’s collection; but although it is not traceable in the Cartwright inventory, the subject fits rather well in his collection,12 which included two depictions of lower-class figures on a large scale: A he foole with a candell & a shee foole with a mous-trap (or Boy with a Candle and Girl with a Mousetrap, DPG413; British after Cornelis Visscher II) and a bagpiper, & a man corting his Lass (or Bagpiper, Girl and Older Man, DPG358; British), which Kalinsky related to theatrical purposes.

British or Flemish School, 17th century
paper on linen, oil paint 48,6 x 34,9 cm
Dulwich (London), Dulwich Picture Gallery, inv./cat.nr. DPG512

Philips Galle
Head of a jester, c. 1560
paper, engraving 370 x 293 mm
Haarlem, Teylers Museum

Jan van Hemessen
Head of a Man in a Fool's Cap, in Profile to right, c. 1520-1557
paper, black chalk 321 x 228 mm
Paris, Fondation Custodia - Collection Frits Lugt, inv./cat.nr. 2201

Pieter Huys
Woman Enraged, c. 1558-1571
panel, oil paint 64,8 x 50 cm
Worcester (Massachusetts), Worcester Art Museum (Massachusetts)

free after Pieter Huys
Bagpipe player and a woman holding a pewter jug, after 1571
panel, oil paint 55 x 79 cm
Christie's (New York City) 2010-01-27, nr. 329

Netherlandish School
Jester looking through his Fingers
paper, engraving 333 x 220 mm
Leiden, Prentenkabinet van de Universiteit (Leiden)


1 ‘Subject: A Laughing Head. A Head in a jester’s cap, with ears to it. Donor, not known.’

2 RKD, no. 283602: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/283602 (April 30, 2017); Sellink & Leesberg 2001, iv, pp. 4–5, no. 563; see also Tummers, Kolfin & Hillegers 2017, p. 68, fig. 1, under no. 2 (Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem; RKD, no. 44960); Kaiser & Philipp 2016, pp. 152–3, no. 26 (the version in Dresden).

3 RKD, no. 283569: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/283569 (March 30, 2017); Boon 1992, i, pp. 220–23, no. 123, iii, pl. 40. This could be a study for an executioner in a scene of Christ carrying the cross.

4 RKD, no. 283589: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/283589 (April 30, 2017); Kromm 2011, p. 38, fig. 2; Welu 1983, pp. 78–81, no. 20.

5 RKD, no. 225525: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/225525 (March 29, 2017). After the original in Berlin, see RKD, no. 52075: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/52075 (April 30, 2017).

6 Wescher 1970, p. 46, fig. 10.

7 RKD, no. 283570: https://rkd.nl/en/explore/images/283570 (March 30, 2017); De Jongh & Luijten 1997, p. 22 (fig. 46); about the picture in Wellesley College of c. 1500 see Tummers, Kolfin & Hillegers 2017, pp. 68–9, 177, under cat. no. 2 (Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem). That picture seems to have been the model for the print. See also Van der Coelen 2008, pp. 230, 279, no. 98.

8 Vandenbroeck 2003, pp. 170–86, figs 177–86; Cavalli-Björkman 1985a.

9 Kromm 2011; see also J. Hillegers in Tummers, Kolfin & Hillegers 2017, pp. 68–9, no. 2.

10 Welu 1983, pp. 78–81, no. 20, and Kromm 2011, p. 38 (fig. 2).

11 Only his letters to her are in the DPG512 file.

12 The frame might give more information. Note in DPG512 file: ‘Frame replaced by Frame from no. 402 and picture hung in Room 7. Old frame used for No 402’.

Cookies disclaimer

Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device.
I agree